Rejected! – Falling at the First Hurdle With Stock Photography

Posted Monday, 9 July 2007 by Chris Garrett in Photography, Technology
What is the first step many wannabe stock photographers make? I would say for most of us it is to upload some old pics and see how many make it. Read on to see how my first step turned into a stumble, and what I learned from it ...
Submitting your pictures leaves you feeling a little exposed. Most of us don't particularly enjoy rejection and stock photo sites with high quality standards reject a lot. Oh man, how they reject!

They have to, of course. Companies like Crestock are in the business of providing high quality images. If the library doesn't make the grade then who is going to buy them?

But that doesn't make us feel any better when we upload pictures we think are fantastic only to get knocked back. 

For my first ever submission I decided to grab eight pictures at random from my Flickr library. While all of them were images I liked, they are in my Flickr account after all, I didn't choose any I particularly expected to get accepted. My ego is too fragile, heh.

Take a look at my pictures below and try to guess which were accepted and which were rejected. Extra points for guessing why. After each I will explain the result and the reasoning. I wonder how many of you will guess correctly 100% ... I know I wasn't expecting what happened next:

Toronto Downtown

Toronto Downtown
Evaluation: Rejected!
Reason: Brand names and logos. Even tiny, squinty, unobtrusive logos could panic a buyer away from using an image.
Advice: Clone out logos carefully and resubmit.
Detail of Toronto Downtown photo

Rogers Centre Toronto

Rogers Centre Toronto
Evaluation: Rejected!
Reason: Again the issues are the brands, copyright, and such. This time it's not just the "Rogers Centre" logo but the artwork on the outside too. Another complication could be the baseball players, would I need model releases? It could be just too risky.
Advice: Aim to not include anything that could cause legal problems down the line.
Detail of Rogers Centre Toronto photo


Evaluation: Rejected!
Reason: Out of focus and bad composition. Also recognisable logo/artwork.
Advice: If taking a photograph of a bouquet, choose if you want it to be a closeup or in whole. My attempt is neither one or the other. Also remove the florist's card, or at least clone the detail out. Most of all, make sure it is in focus and well lit!
Detail of Flowers photo

Cooling Towers

Cooling Towers
Evaluation: Borderline, but  rejected!
Reason: From my keywords it is hard to tell if this is a landmark, and therefore interesting, or just an uninspiring picture of some dumb old cooling towers.
Advice: Add detailed keywords or take more interesting compositions!

CN Tower

CN Tower
Evaluation: Rejected!
Reason: Artifacts and fringing
Advice: Don't use your bog-standard software if you expect to get a good approval rate. This picture was exported from Apple iPhoto and it shows. Also it was taken with my Canon 10-22mm lens which is notorious for colour fringing in these conditions. If shooting RAW files, this can in most cases be corrected in post processing.
Detail of CN Tower photo

Chaffinch, British Bird in natural habitat

Chaffinch, British Bird in natural habitat
Evaluation: Approved!
Reason: While at full size it exhibits some focus issues, it is good enough to be admitted in at a lower res – hurrah!
Advice: Use a tripod and a high shutter speed to make sure there are no shake or focus problems if you want to get maximum approvals and the best prices!
Detail of Bird photo

Downtown Calgary

Downtown Calgary
Evaluation: Rejected!
Reason: Underexposed, composition. Those dark areas need bringing up to show the detail. On top of that the main area of interest, the tower, is not particularly the hero of the shot.
Advice: Make it obvious what the subject of your picture is and be careful with exposure.
Detail of Downtown Calgary photo

Banff Night Scene

Banff Night Scene
Evaluation: Rejected!
Reason: This pic has got it all, artifacts, blur and logos! Not surprising when you think I was dashing across an icy road when I took it, heh.
Advice: While it might be a much-loved tourist snap, this isn't going to sell unless all the issues are taken care of. Next time, tripod, metering, and most of all, Photoshop!
Detail of Banff Night Scene photo


So there you are, one accepted out of eight submitted! How many did you guess correctly?

OK, disapointing performance on my part but I did learn a great deal and will be better armed for next time. Most of the issues are relatively painless to sort out either when you take the picture or later in Photoshop. 

The key learning is to think like a buyer, what do they need and what might put them off? Only by creating sellable pictures will we succeed in this game!

Related posts

» Introduction from the Cre:Source New Guy

Weekly Free Stock Photo The Weekly Free Stock Image
We are giving away a free, high quality photo every week! Get Your Image


By Mike Panic on Monday, 9 July 2007 3:04 PM
Shooting stock is much harder than most give credit for. Thinking in the way a designer can use an image and spending the time to remove all logos, even a brand name on the button of a pair of jeans is tedious work.

I wrote an article a while ago (turned into 4 and growing), Make money selling digital photos, based on my experiance selling microstock over the last 5 years.
By chrisgarrett on Monday, 9 July 2007 5:46 PM
Got to agree with you, there is more to think about than I at first thought, but it is fun learning and having a go. I will investigate your blog for more tips :)
By Christopher Scholl on Monday, 9 July 2007 5:48 PM
Very helpful article. And I couldn't agree more with your point that the key is to think like a buyer. Combined with an arsenal of solid photographic skills, that should get anyone pretty far.
By Guilherme Zühlke O'Connor on Monday, 9 July 2007 7:58 PM
Great article, and very brave of you to show so much rejection on one post, lol, I don't think I would have been brave enough.

And agreeing with Mike Panic, I think Shooting stock really is much harder that it seems.

While an artist photographer must carry the weight of being innovative and, well... artistic, a stock photographer has to have a good market vision and think pictures on the customer side.

In a way, is like being CEO of your own talent, and have the talent at the same time.
By Martin on Monday, 9 July 2007 8:31 PM
Yeah shooting stock is much harder than it is made out to be. But your biggest lesson from this batch is the trademark stuff. That will not fly on any stock website for simple legal reasons. The other pictures may do better on another site. But don't worry most everybody as more rejects than approvals as they first start you're in good company.
By chrisgarrett on Tuesday, 10 July 2007 12:02 AM
Brave doesn't come into it, I gave up worrying about looking bad :)

I think as long as each time I submit I learn something before long I will be doing ok!
By Guilherme Zühlke O'Connnor on Tuesday, 10 July 2007 4:14 AM
I agree is wise, but is also brave!
By Donncha O Caoimh on Tuesday, 10 July 2007 11:36 AM
I've had numerous images rejected by microstock agencies but I find I make more money from website advertising on my blog than any sales of my images, so I don't worry too much about it.
By chrisgarrett on Tuesday, 10 July 2007 12:04 PM
The nice thing about stock photographs (when they sell) is all the work has been done, it is a truly passive income, so it is possible to do both - work on generating content and traffic for the blog and in spare time take photographs as would always do but with additional step of uploading and keywording :)
By mo dawn on Wednesday, 11 July 2007 8:39 PM
I don't particularly agree. I think they were beautiful!!! I could see how one or two got rejected, but the others- they shouldn't be so horribly picky!! I think your photos were amazing and mny had very good composition and really expressed different things. They communicate well and thats what matters right? I do see your point, and thanks for the heads up!!!

You can always submit them elsewhere too!
By chrisgarrett on Thursday, 12 July 2007 8:42 PM
Thanks, very kind of you to say :) Once I have learned a bit more and removed the brand names I think I will re-submit
By virgil on Thursday, 26 July 2007 8:16 PM
Every agency has submission guidelines --what (photo) to submit. I noticed all the causes of rejection you pointed out were all in photo submission guidelines. Good to know you were 'in a hurry' to submit --you would likely miss the guidelines!
I'm a newbie in photography and very much interested in selling stock photos. You have just shared one heck bunch of a lesson! Thank You!!
Same as me
By bardman on Wednesday, 5 September 2007 7:51 AM
I got eight of my nine first shots rejected, too. Most of them were old pictures of relatively bad quality, though. I wonder how my next pending batch will do...
By jtotoro on Saturday, 24 November 2007 10:35 PM
You mention "exported from iPhoto" as a cause of some quality issues. Can you explain what iPhoto is doing photos on export? I also had some rejected for compression or ISO issues and am wondering if iPhoto had done something. I export from there but as original size and format and nothing should have been done. diff shows some differences but turning off "add colorsync profile on import" fixes that when I test now. It is too late to test the rejected images however as they have been removed from the memory card long ago.


First Timer
By Jessie on Wednesday, 28 November 2007 3:14 PM
Just had a look at your site as I am (possibly) interested in uploading some images to an agency. You certainly gave me some interesting and informative guidelines and having the problems in your own photos pointed out, was a fantastic eye opener. I will now look at my photos a LOT more closely!
i got no rejections
By milicentart on Saturday, 8 December 2007 2:14 AM
after uploading 10 photos and waiting a week or so for approval, I got no response, no rejections, my photos are no longer on the list to be approved. I was under impression that there was a rejection bin I could see. Were my photos just deleted? Were they that bad that you couldn't given me an iota of encouragement?

Add your comment:

Further comments have been disabled on this post.